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Microsoft joins Michelle Obama for Joining Forces anniversary celebration

Originally published on The Fire Hose by Microsoft on April 23, 2015.

By Janell Toppen, Senior Program Manager, Military Affairs

On Thursday I was honored to represent Microsoft at an event celebrating the four-year anniversary and expansion of the Joining Forces initiative, a White House project sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden to support service members, veterans and their families through wellness, education and employment opportunities. I was among a group of employers, veterans and members of the press who joined the first lady on a visit to Micron Technology in Manassas, Va., where Obama announced new commitments to train and hire veterans and military spouses across several high-growth sectors, including technology.

In her remarks, Obama called on U.S. employers in all industrial sectors to join in the initiative’s efforts to support, train and hire veterans. We’re proud to be answering that call. Microsoft is committed to leading the industry in training veterans prior to their transition from the military. We do it through Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA), a 16-week training program to prepare active duty service members to transition into high-paying IT careers. They gain critical technology skills, certification testing, interview guidance and mentorships.

Since its launch in November 2013, MSSA has graduated 210 participants from three bases: Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Camp Pendleton in California and Fort Hood in Texas. Well over half of those graduates have already been hired for IT jobs at Microsoft and other employers, with an average salary of $66,700. We’re working to expand the program to additional bases around the country so we can offer more veterans the chance to build their skills and begin rewarding careers.

Joining Forces began in 2011 when President Obama challenged the private sector to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. Businesses have responded by hiring and training more than 500,000 veterans and military spouses, but the challenge goes on. We will continue to do our part and welcome others in the IT industry to join us on this journey, as we renew our commitment to honoring the service of those who sacrificed so much by helping them make that leap from one great career in the military to another — in the exciting world of technology.